By David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 02/25/17 – 3:51 PM PST |

In Ontario, the normally routine process of naming people to city committees last week took on elements of — ooooh — intrigue.

Hearing that drama might be afoot, I attended Tuesday’s Ontario City Council meeting, my first of 2017.

This was also my first since Ruben Valencia was sworn in as a councilman after being the top vote-getter. He immediately blamed the media, i.e., me for negativity for having suggested there was bad blood between him and Councilman Alan Wapner, just because two years earlier Valencia had taken Wapner to court.

Now it appeared that in nominating appointees to three city panels — ones guiding parks and recreation, the library and the museum — Valencia might be backing away from his initial choices because of their anti-Wapner attitude.

The matter first surfaced at the Feb. 7 council meeting, when Paul Mim Mack and Marci Garcia hinted during the public comment period that their selection had run into trouble. Until 2014, a council member’s picks were automatically approved.

But then Paul Vincent Avila came along and, well, we know how that went. The fickle Avila had bounced three of his own appointees in under two years before council members stepped in. Under new rules, a council majority must ratify appointments and removals.

Tuesday night, Garcia spoke again. “Why is there so much controversy on Mr. Ruben Valencia’s commissioners? There are a lot of residents who are questioning this procedure.” She said many people could speak on their behalf.

Mim Mack spoke too, saying the council was “substituting your judgment for the will of the voters” and objecting to “a pervasive lack of transparency by the council.”

The latter point was also raised by Judy Briggs, a longtime council watcher. Briggs said the public had no idea who had applied for the positions because there was no staff report for the agenda item.

“We don’t know who these people are,” Briggs said. She questioned whether there had been serial discussions among council members or a deal had been made behind the scenes.

Mayor Paul Leon said Briggs could have made a public records request to look at the applications, a step she acknowledged hadn’t occurred to her. But she said she shouldn’t have to do that.

In a friendly way, Briggs noted that she happens to know an attorney, which snapped everyone to attention — her son, Cory, is a prominent lawyer — and said an agency lost a very similar case in San Diego County recently.

To read expanded column, click here.